Spotlight

For the Record

Evidence on crime and safety in America

Criminal justice and immigration policy affects millions of lives in the United States. Yet, public policy is too often swayed by political rhetoric and unfounded assumptions. This is especially true in today’s era of rapid-response digital journalism, where the pace of publication means that stories with misleading information can easily go viral, and news consumption often occurs through curated social media feeds showing headlines that reinforce a person’s beliefs. Now, more than ever, there is a need for accessible, reliable information that can be used to fact-check stories in the press and on social media.

To improve understanding on justice issues currently elevated in public debate, the Vera Institute of Justice has created a series of briefing papers that provide an accessible summary of the latest evidence concerning justice-related topics. By summarizing and synthesizing existing research, identifying landmark studies and key resources, and, in some cases, providing original analysis of data, these briefs offer a balanced and nuanced examination of some of the significant justice issues of our time.

With a few hyper-localized exceptions that require targeted attention, violent crime rates are lower today than they have been at any point over the past four decades. However, this era of public safety has been misrepresented by some media reports and public commentary concluding that violent crime increases in a few cities equal a sweeping national problem. This brief examines those erroneous conclusions about current crime trends—using both existing and original research—and describes how to avoid common pitfalls when interpreting statistics on violent crime.

Supplement to Measuring Public Safety

Expanded to include final 2016 data for 294 cities with populations of 100,000 or greater

In Measuring Public Safety: Responsibly Interpreting Statistics on Violent Crime, the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) used historical crime trend data to illustrate some common pitfalls when interpreting statistical data on crime. This supplement expands Vera’s previous analyses by incorporating official Uniform Crime Reporting statistics for 2016...

Publication
  • Bruce Frederick
September 26, 2017
Publication
This supplement expands Vera’s previous analyses by incorporating official Uniform Crime Reporting statistics for 2016 and providing data on crime rates for 294 cities with populations of 100,000 or greater, analyzed by population groupings and across census regions.
Despite its widespread use, research shows that the effect of incarceration as a deterrent to crime is minimal at best, and has been diminishing for several years. Indeed, increased rates of incarceration have no demonstrated effect on violent crime and in some instances may increase crime. There are more effective ways to respond to crime—evidenced by the 19 states that recently reduced both their incarceration and crime rates. This brief summarizes the weak relationship between incarceration and crime reduction, and highlights proven strategies for improving public safety that are more effective and less expensive than incarceration.

Minimizing Harm

Public Health and Justice System Responses to Drug Use and the Opioid Crisis

For the Record Evidence Brief SeriesHow government and communities should respond to drug use is a perennial question that has gained a renewed sense of urgency in the face of the current opioid overdose crisis, and annual deaths from overdose have grown more than ninefold since 1980. In addition to the thousands of lives claimed, thousands more Am...

Publication
  • Jim Parsons, Scarlet Neath
December 13, 2017
Publication
This brief discusses the two leading approaches to drug use in America—treatment, prevention, and harm reduction on one hand; and enforcement of drug laws and incarceration of drug users on the other. Using current research, the brief further offers recommendations for a national strategy to effectively address drug use and the opioid crisis.